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This came up in another thread, but I wanted to break it out on its own.

I really like backgrounds. When I'm making a character, they're a great prompt to think about something from my character's past and either jumpstart a backstory, or if I already have one, add something extra to it. My wife actually made a similar comment when she was making her first character earlier this week when she said that the backstory on it "started writing itself during creation".

So that's awesome! For AP themed backgrounds, it also gives both me and my DM an easy way to tie characters in to the story. For homebrew campaigns, they're also an easy point to add things to customize the world in a way that doesn't have major impact on the rules.

What I don't like is that if you want to not be mechanically penalized, you get severely constrained on backgrounds by the boosts you need. If a class only truly cares about one ability score, you're fine. If it cares about two, then you need to match things up and you lose a lot of options.

I think that could be done better. What if classes gave two boosts (to two abilities it wants instead of one) and when picking a background you simply get one free boost? That does two things:

1. Any background can go with any class, greatly expanding the options to tell stories
2. Classes that could only ever start with 18 in one ability will now have an option to start at 18 in one of two abilities, opening up some extra choice.

Thoughts? There might be better ways to do this, but I came up with moving it around this way to try and be as low impact on existing character creation rules as possible.

(Sidenote: my wife was very happy with character creation overall. More so than I am. She also had a much easier time with her first character than I did. While I was helping her, I also think that as a more casual player than I am, she didn't try to overthink things or plan ahead too much and her style seems to suit the system very well.)


My wife is joining us in the playtest (yay!) for our next session, and she wants to play a sorcerer that gets some use out of the dragon claws ability.

So, as I've never looked at the class until now, does anyone have any build tips and play tips on how to get the most out of that?

Thanks!


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The state of spellcasting in 2e is probably the biggest issue I have with it. I like a lot of changes and can work with a lot of the other stuff, but spellcasting is just not doing it for me at all.

Some of the problem is the overly high save DCs (which they already said will be addressed). Some of it is how badly spells were nerfed in effect and duration. But the biggest part is that spell slots were significantly cut down(*) while the core assumptions of Vancian casting were left in place.

With so many fewer spells per day and the nerfed duration on a lot of them, filling each slot with the spell you think you'll need is a lot more onerous than it used to be. Taking multiple castings of something is a very steep price when you only have 3 slots. Using spell slots for exploration mode activities is basically right out, as they don't last long enough and you don't have enough to spend on it in case you need them for combat.

This comes around to keeping the same spell prep system 1e had, but changing everything else around it. It feels much more onerous to have to plan every cast of every spell in advance with a significantly smaller number of them, as it shrinks your margin of error. When I have 6 slots in a given level, I can get one or two wrong and it's not a huge deal. With 3, each one I take that turns out to not be the right one is 33% of my slots for the level that are dead weight.

And frankly, for those of us who aren't at the top of the player skill level tree and do make mistakes on this stuff, that sucks. Part of why I was so excited about the staff rules in the focus playtest is that if you can get a decent staff, you can make this more forgiving for some spells. I really hope they keep that.

Fundamentally, a system that worked when I had at least 5 (usually 6, and sometimes even more) spells per level doesn't work nearly as well when I've got 3. If the goal is to keep these smaller spell per day numbers, a rethink of how they're prepared and cast needs to happen as well.

The most common suggestion is to switch to "Arcanist casting", where you pick the spells you can use in those slots, but don't assign them to slots. So if you wind up need one of those spells twice, you simply use the slots and don't have to have prepared a second one in advance. That certainly helps, especially with spells like Restoration where you really don't know how many you will need because it depends on how many people get hit by problematic status afflictions. I can tell you I really hate to have to tell someone "you're stuck with that condition today because I didn't prepare a third Restoration", and they don't particularly like it either. IMO, this would help quite a lot since even if I get one selection wrong at a given level, I can still use that slot for the two other spells and thus get some value out of it.

I also wonder if we could go even further and ditch spell slots entirely, in favor of a single casting pool. You get to prepare some spells, and casting them takes from the pool based on the spell level. So if I happen to end up needing eight 2nd level spells and zero 5th level spells, I just go ahead and cast them on the fly from the pool and that's how it goes. This also solves Heighten weirdness, since you simply pay the extra cost when you cast to get the Heightened effect. This is obviously a much more drastic change and I can see some people not liking it, but it would also address the problem.

Thoughts? I mostly just hope that Paizo isn't married to the idea that Vancian casting has to stay because it's always been that way. With the other changes they've made, it really doesn't work as well as it used to.

(*) The most recent survey mentioned losing an average of "one spell per level". I don't know if they ignored Clerics in that average or what, but that's only true on Clerics if you ignore both bonus spells and domain spells. The actual number is far higher, upwards of a 2e Cleric having half the spells of a 1e Cleric in a given level. Channel covers you for Heal, but not for any other spell, so if you weren't playing a healer or were doing something that didn't require a lot of healing, the loss stings hard.


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I went outside my comfort zone this time and didn't play a Cleric. Had a Goblin Fighter with a Greatsword, which was actually conceptually pretty cool. Rest of the party was a Ranger, a Wizard, and I think a Rogue? I'm not 100% sure on the last person, but I think it was a rogue. There was a lot of discussion about how we'd do when suddenly the guy who always plays Clerics wasn't playing one and we had no healing, but we figured we'd try it out (we did have treat wounds available as I made sure someone had Medicine).

We did a bit of exploring, heard about the sea monster, and decided we'd go investigate that. My fighter's idea was to take its head as a trophy and go show it to the cyclops we had been told about, so it would recognize our power and join us. My fighter was not the smartest cookie, but she was good at combat.

So we went to the lake, and we built a boat using our three crafters and the Goblin feat to make stuff out of junk. That was thematically hilarious as two of the crafters were goblins and the third (the Wizard) was dismayed at the poor quality.

Then we went out into the lake to explore that hex. We found the sea monster when it made a Stealth check so high that it was literally impossible for us to succeed on Perception to see it. (By a large margin, it beat my max possible by 9 and I think nobody could have gotten within 5.)

On the first turn of combat, it crit the fighter (me) for half my HP. With 16 CON, that was pretty terrifying. I got to attack it and demoralize, which did work. Did 4 points of bleed from the wounding rune, which stayed up for 9 rounds and thus was arguably the most effective single attack in the entire combat.

It then swallowed me. While swallowed, I couldn't use my greatsword... so I tried to cut out with my goblin bite when I realized it was incredibly difficult to succeed on the Athletics to get out, and that only took me back to its mouth anyway (so it would just swallow me again). This really hit home just how big the gap is between a weapon with a potency rune and one without one, because my +2 weapon probably could have cut us out quickly, but a mundane one is just not doing good damage. Also it took several rounds before I could roll above a 3, and I didn't get many chances being slowed and grabbed inside the thing. And also suffocating.

It then proceeded to systematically swallow everybody in the party. The Wizard was particularly ineffective as it critically succeeded on every spell save and thus nothing worked on it except Magic Missle. He was pretty disappointed at how ineffective he was.

Once we were all in, my Fighter took the Wizard's +2 dagger (because why not?) and tried to cut out with that. But then the dying conditions started hitting from the damage every turn, and the suffocation as well. We used hero points. We were allowed to share an air bubble spell although you probably can't really do that (it reduced its duration when we did but whatever), and at one point I stuck my head in my own bag of holding to take a breath since it contains air until I opened it. Our DM was feeling open to allowing creative ideas with how badly this thing was pulverizing us... and that was with him forgetting to roll damage for people already swallowed for half the combat.

To make a long story short, on the last round before I suffocated and went back into dying (permanently, as nobody could get me back up and my wounded value was high enough that I wasn't going to be able to survive on my own, despite beating the DC and getting back up 3 times already in the fight and using a hero point), I hit it and did 1 less damage than required to cut our way out. DM said "here's a couple of her points, I'll let you use them to add an extra d4 damage."

That was done strictly to let us continue the playtest if we want to. Had he not outright fudged the rules, it was a TPK as we had no way to get another round.

With that, we cut ourselves out. With how much damage the wounding rune had done, and the other damage we did, it was blooded and he ruled it retreated rather than attacking us again (because if it had, it would have TPKd us anyway).

He remarked that it was probably the hardest fight, but he also remarked at how high some of the DCs to hit it were and how often we were failing. Of particular note was how low the Wizard's spell DCs were in comparison to this thing and how there was no spell save outcome except critical success. DM actually thought the Wizard had calculated it incorrectly because the number sounded so low in comparison to its saves.

The stats on this thing were WAY too high for our party of four and there was a lot of ineffective people. I think I had the most success, and I was still failing more than half the time (cold dice didn't help but I needed to roll a 12 against TAC with that dagger to cut out, and the number was higher to hit it normally).

I'm not sure if we're going to continue Mirrored Moon. I'd like to test out exploration mode and see how it goes, but I'm not sure people want to get into another encounter where stuff can blast us for half our HP in a single attack without a healer. Course, maybe the Wizard will just change characters and bring a Cleric, since Heal would actually work (unlike every spell the Wizard tried that wasn't Magic Missile). Since we already TPKd officially, the DM didn't mind if people wanted to change things. If not, we'll probably just call it the TPK it should have been and go on to the next playtest.

I will say that my Fighter was fun to play despite how ridiculous that fight was, and I don't usually say that about Fighters. RPing a Goblin was quite a lot of fun, as the other goblin and I played off each other, and someone that small with a greatsword charging in was really amusing.

Of course, there are also no stakes in a playtest. If we had come to end of a 3 year campaign and a fight simply crushed us that totally... maybe I would be more annoyed.


It took us about 7 hours of play time over two nights to finish it. Overall we had fun, the general reaction was pretty positive once we were into actual play and turns went faster than our previous test session. Lots of positives there.

Party was two Paladins, a Bard, and a Cleric of Sarenrae (me).

Character creation

Was frankly the worst part. It took me four hours, again. A lot of that was trying to figure out how to get the items I wanted given the item levels I was restricted to ("item Tetris", as I call it). Would have greatly preferred to simply be given an amount of gold to spend however I wanted. Other people had trouble with creation as well, and one person wasn't done by time it was ready to play.

Introduction

Some fun RP here, our DM does voices and it was amusing. We gave the armor to one of the Paladins, spoke to people at the mansion, and then forgot why we were there. Doh! A reminder later and we were moving along again. We spent some time looking around when the NPCs were all in the lab. Found the trap door and a locked room, but we had no way to break in and lots of discussion on if we even should. We didn't. We did find useful stuff in the piles of books and notes we found, which was neat.

First encounter

I don't remember what these were. Easy fight. They bunched up at the door and Cleric Fireballed them. Paladins and Bard mopped up what was left. Nobody took significant damage.

Vampires

These guys came with friends, but the vampires were an issue. They got Bard isolated and in one round managed to get her to Drain 3. We had no way of fixing that in the party, as Cleric didn't take heightened restoration (we had no idea what types of enemies to expect, so it didn't seem practical at the time). So that wasn't great. We felt the lack of AoOs here. Realizing we could wave holy symbols around to ward them off helped a lot since we had several of those, and Cleric had Emblazon Symbol, which DM interpreted as having that item count. So he didn't even need a free hand to do it.

Overall this required some work on our part, which probably would have been better without letting Bard get isolated away from everyone else.

Poltergeist

We had no idea what was going on here initially, except books were flying around hitting people. Eventually we did figure it out, but it kept disappearing so we had a hard time fighting it. Bard then spotted it for Cleric who lit it up with Faerie Fire (golden colored because Sarenrae ;) ). That helped a fair bit, but it was flying around so our normal weapons didn't work.

We took it down with a necklace of Fireball from Bard, some Paladin healing, and Cleric using Spiritual Weapon.

Shadows

Super fun fight. These guys were interesting and scary. 3 people lost their shadow and the enervation was flying around. We had barricaded the NPCs in the room that led to the trap door so we had less area to protect, and that worked out well for us.

This was difficult but we won with everyone still up and not much in the way of resources left. Cleric and one of the Paladins made judicious use of Heal.

Again, we had no way to remove the enervate. So we were stuck with it.

Final encounter

I forget this guy's name. With how we were positioned, he tried to come in one way and sent the vampire spawn in through the door door. Cleric, now being totally out of spells (and Channels!), took up position at that door and waved his holy symbol around to ward off the vampires. Combined with the garlic we found in the pantry, they spent the entire encounter trying to make the Will save to get past that and failing. So it was incredibly effective, if not the most exciting thing to do.

Rest of the party beat the big guy down with one Paladin blocking the door, Bard inside the room, and the other Paladin providing flanking. The enervate being on so many people dragged this out a while, but we did win.

Final Thoughts

I didn't get to test Treat Wounds because any time we had damage to heal, I wasn't given enough time between encounters to use it. So that was a pain, but it also amped up the tension level of the scenario because we realized pretty quickly we had to pace our resources as we were not going to get to recover. We were largely out of spells and other resources at the end, so the tuning was spot on for our group... but only because we had a Cleric. Stick someone else in there and it would have been a real stretch.

Overall it went pretty well and people had a good time.


Couple of questions.

1. It says on page 379 of the book that all staves are Expert quality weapons. Does that mean they can never have higher than a +2 potency rune on them, or can you upgrade them to Master quality?

2. It also says you can use a staff to do somatic components without having a free hand. I'm assuming that doesn't cover a case where you need a divine focus? In that case, I'm thinking Emblazon Symbol would get around that, although I'm not sure how many divine spells actually need more than verbal and somatic anyway.

3. How do you determine how much hardness a shield has, and how many dents it can take? I see people throwing numbers around on that and I'm just baffled as to where they are coming from.

Was curious if you could make a Cleric with a shield and a staff of healing, and I'm just trying to sort out how it all works. That's where the questions are coming from. Thanks. :)


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Was my first time playing, and really looking at the new rules. I'd largely ignored it until now. So there was a lot of learning going on. Party was a Cleric of Desna (me), Wizard, Rogue, Bard, and Ranger.

Lady Vord’s

She offered us a free +1 sword or something, which caused everyone to in the group to look around and ask who uses that? The Rogue ended up taking it. We asked a few questions, then went off getting supplies. There was a lot of effort spent trying to figure out how much a camel could carry, how much feed they would need, and how much that cost. But we did get a keg of ale so we could have ale and fill the keg with water in case it became hard to find. (Also, Create Water was absurdly over nerfed, especially now that it's a limited resource.)

Hyaenas

The knockdown/drag thing was really cool and really made us react to deal with. We then ended up using survival to get some meat off them and cooking it to enjoy with the ale. One of our camels almost died, as when the Hyenas couldn't attack me (Sanctuary was up) they turned on it instead.

ankhrav

We saw the mound far enough out, and recognized what it was. So we simply went around and skipped this.

Gnoll camp

My Cleric had Perform, an expert instrument, and Impressive Performance. So, we dealt with this encounter by having me break cover and start playing music. With a well timed good roll, that actually worked and got them to be open to negotiation. Our Wizard (who spoke their language) then diplomacy'd safe passage in exchange for some meat.

We had been saving rations by using Foraging with Survival while travelling, so we had extras. We pointed out those had dried meat in them, and then levitated several days worth over. Then while they were eating, we had one person jump across the river with a rope and used that to help get everyone else across. This was possibly my favorite encounter because the solution was so out of left field and yet fit the characters we had perfectly.

Mountain Climb

Nobody was particularly good at Athletics and I was untrained and with the Gnome STR penalty, so that really wasn't great. We did make it up with only one person falling, but it was really up to the dice and it didn't feel like we had much say in the outcome. One fun part about this was the Cleric was deeply concerned about his musical instrument and wanted to give it to a better climber for safekeeping... and that's the person who fell. Oops! (It was fine.)

Manticore

Heal is really good. That was my takeaway here. Little else I did really made a difference, and Cantrip attacks in particular felt like using a pea shooter. But Heal was huge. And we needed a lot of it. There was also confusion about how initiative works with stealth.

The Wizard got immobilized by a spine here (after immobilizing the Manticore with Entangle) and it proved really hard to fix that because, again, Athletics, which we aren't very good at. Having a spine going through your leg seems like something Medicine should be useful on, but nope.

Acid Arrow did absolutely tons of damage here. That persistent damage is crazy good, which made my Cantrips feel even weaker in comparison (two actions to do less than the persistent damage was doing is just lame). We wanted to rest, but this wasn't a good spot.

Gnolls at the dead end.

Wizard kept the manticore spine we pulled out of her leg when we did finally manage to free her. Used that to convince them the Manticore was dead and we were able to get past this diplomatically.

Entrance trap.

Discussion on if the Rogue should open it. Rogue didn't want to. Cleric opened it out of impatience because we had already been playing for 4 hours. Cleric got critical hit and sent from full HP to dying 2 instantly. A potion later, Cleric declared he was never going in front ever again.

Rested.

Water/Earth Elemental

Got tossed into the water. Oh hey, Athletics again! Getting out proved so difficult that after 4 rounds I just gave up and stayed in the water. The damage that water elemental was putting out was huge and I really did very little in this fight aside from swim and Heal.

Rested again, because that single fight had wiped out most of our spell slots and the combat combined with the post-combat HP recovery wiped out all my channeled healing in a single encounter. So we were done.

Also, Detect Magic is just lame now. Magical sonar that doesn't even give you a direction is just pointlessly annoying.

Locking Device.

We had 2 gems. Party did some stuff to get past the other part. I honestly don't know what, I was tired now that we're in hour 5 and had no skills that could contribute so I zoned out.

Mummy room.

Between AoE channel and the Wizard loving fire, this was easy. Cleric did get diseased, but given the nature of the playtest it likely won't matter.

We rescued the Djinn, who opened the path to the tomb for us. In there a mirror did something to the Wizard, but I forget what because now we're at 6 hours and I'm exhausted.

I do remember there was a Scimitar as the big loot, and we again looked around and went "does the Rogue want that?" She did not, so it will just be sold I guess. Loot wise, there wasn't really anything in here for people who weren't interested in melee weapons, which was 80% of our party.

I enjoyed the module overall, especially the parts where we had room to be creative in solving encounters. But offensively I felt really useless when out of second level spells compared to everyone else, while Healing was just hugely powerful, and I wasn't even specialized in it.

I like healing, so that worked out fine for me. It ran too long for my liking, but I think that had a lot to do with unfamilarity with the system, some confusing wording, and having to constantly flip around hundreds of pages in a PDF to figure out how things work, which is really clunky.